City in a book
The Artist Book by Daniel Knorr records his encounter with Hong Kong by collecting broken knick-knacks and objects he picked up from the street. It is part of the “back to the basics” exhibition series being held at Oi!, North Point.
In a city where land is scarce, it is alarming that every day thousands of tonnes of municipal solid waste are being disposed of at landfills in Hong Kong. While our society is relatively affluent, are we seeing the real values of things in relation to the most pressing issues we are facing? As a community art hub, Oi! is dedicated to presenting art that provokes thought on issues closely related to daily life, including the “back to the basics” series currently being held.
Ivy Lin, the Curator (Community Art) of the Art Promotion Office said: “Oi!, unlike an art gallery, is deeply connected to the community so we want to put art in real life and see how artists respond to current issues. We want to see how art is organically made in a real life situation, and the artists we have invited for this series are able to lend their perspectives this way.”
“Daniel searched the city for what people left behind to make his book, which is a very direct and immediate reaction to Hong Kong. The book, imprinted with the traces of these objects, can also be reused and the stories continue to be written,” she said.
Artist Daniel Knorr first started the Artist Book project in Romania in 2007. He has since produced books for 11 cities that highlighted their respective characteristics. This is the 12th edition of the Artist Book that he is presenting at the ‘back to the basics’ exhibition series at Oi!. A total of 500 copies have been made to be given to visitors at Oi!.
The Artist Book that Knorr is making at Oi! for Hong Kong is his second largest in scale, after the last one that was exhibited at documenta 14 in Athens in 2017. For each book, he starts by collecting worthless objects from public places, and then presses them with the force of about 30 tons. This is the “printing” of the book, which the artist makes to shed a new light on materialism, objects and daily life.
Knorr said: “I’ve become an object fetishist in a way and I can’t walk normally on the street any more. I’m always picking up things that I find interesting. With the book, I sometimes have to do pre-pressing to make the objects flat, and then press them further in the book, leaving traces or engravings on the paper. Every book is original because of the objects.”
“There are always surprises in what I find. Some objects are displaced and come from different contexts. You find the objects on the street and you create the story.”
Heaps of toys, neckties, name cards, photographs and even red packets with different designs. Common place trash but to Knorr, they tell stories of this city.
“What I’m doing is contemporary archaeology. These objects speak of the public moments that we live in and how we deal with our surroundings, what we give away now in 20 years’ time may tell an interesting story. The brands that make these red packets may not exist any more. You never know how things will change,” said Knorr.
He stressed that he was not delivering a message but to start a discussion. “I try to catch the moment and everybody is free to take from it what they want. To me art should not have a message as it is about a process of thinking. I just want people to start thinking about their society and what is valuable not by looking at things that we want, but things we throw away.”
Lin thanked several local green organisations for helping to give Knorr a better understanding of Hong Kong. Having experienced the challenges of setting up a temporary studio here, he has come to an understanding of the issue of land and created a sculpture that bears the imprint of a piece of land in Hong Kong, which is also included as part of this exhibition.
Born in Bucharest, Romania, Knorr went to study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich and moved to Berlin in the 1990s. He employs different art forms, including sculptures, graphic works and performances, to reflect phenomenons in the society. He represented Romania in the 2005 Venice Biennale with his work and exhibited at documenta 14 in both Kassel and Athens in 2017. Today, his works have been collected by museums worldwide, including the Migros Museum in Zurich, the Stasi Museum in Leipzig, and the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, etc.
back to the basics – Daniel Knorr: Artist Book
23.3.2018 – 20.5.2018
Gallery 1, Oi!
Oi! 12 Oil Street, North Point, Hong Kong